Plastic Waste

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:18 pm on 8th September 2021.

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Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 5:18 pm, 8th September 2021

I will not give way, because I think I have answered the hon. Gentleman’s question, and I want to get through the many points that have been made.

We have already introduced one of the toughest bans on microbeads and microplastics anywhere.[This section has been corrected on 13 September 2021, column 6MC — read correction] We have had the 5p carrier bag charge—now the 10p charge. As has been highlighted, that has cut down dramatically on the number of single-use plastic bags being used by supermarkets. We have extended it to small producers. I love the image of juggling the baby and not taking a bag. I have done the same, but I always take my Somerset Willow wicker basket with me. Everyone should have one—support local traditions.

We have also restricted the supply of single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds, and we will go much further than that shortly, because we are consulting on banning single-use plastic plates and cutlery, and polystyrene drinks containers. In that consultation, we will ask whether there are similar things that we should be working towards. I know that there is an awful lot of pressure relating to the EU single-use plastic directive, but we will be addressing all that and more. Indeed, we are tackling a whole lot of other issues that have not even been tackled yet by that directive. For example, we are looking at textiles, because a lot of textiles produce microfibres. There is an awful lot that we are working on.

Innovation and research have been touched on. We have established a £100 million package for research and innovation to deal with the issue of plastic waste. That includes £38 million through the plastics research and innovation fund and £10 million through the resource action fund to innovate in recycling and in tackling litter, which was touched on by my right hon. Friend Theresa Villiers. Talking of science, she touched on oxo-biodegradables, an issue that has been raised with me and that I have had meetings about. As a result of a call for evidence on this, and the review by the Hazardous Substances Advisory Committee on oxo-biodegradable plastics, we are minded to consult on a ban on those materials. That is the latest update that I can give her on that.

Plastic pollution is not just a problem for our country. That is why we have worked to support the Global Ghost Gear Initiative, the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance and the tide turners plastic challenge badge, helping hundreds of thousands of young people tackle plastics in their communities. Through the £500 million Blue Planet Fund, we are investing in, among other things, the Global Plastic Action Partnership.

We are ready to go further, and that is why we are calling for a new global agreement to co-ordinate action on marine plastic litter and microplastics. Just as we had in Paris for climate change, we believe we need an international agreement on these types of plastic pollution. The majority of UN members are already on board, so when we come together at the UN Environmental Assembly next February, I hope that other nations will join in with this.